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Image courtesy of the Niagara County Department of Health
Image courtesy of the Niagara County Department of Health

Oral rabies vaccine distribution project anticipated to begin as early as week of Aug. 10


Tue, Aug 4th 2020 04:45 pm

The Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division is part of a collaborative effort to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies in the Western New York region through dissemination of oral rabies vaccine (ORV). Partners include Niagara, Erie, Orleans, Genesee, Cattaraugus, Wyoming and Chautauqua county health departments; New York State Department of Health, Agriculture & Markets; USDA/Wildlife Services Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS); the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (Canada); Tuscarora and Seneca nations; and Cornell University, among others.

This is the eighth year Niagara County has participated in the field trial to study the efficacy of ORV against rabies in the wild. The field test will include aerial and hand distribution of rabies vaccine-containing baits (ONRAB brand). Hand baiting is anticipated to begin the week of Aug. 10 through the end of the month. Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter distribution are anticipated to be a five-day distribution event sometime between Aug. 10-31. Exact timing is affected by flight disparities and delays (such as weather).

Raccoons are vaccinated against rabies when they eat the wildlife rabies vaccine that is contained in the baits.

“During the baiting period, residents may see and hear low-flying aircraft and observe program staff distributing green packets by hand and car around Niagara Falls neighborhoods,” said Paul Dicky, Niagara County environmental health director.

The green ONRAB baits are about the size of a matchbox and are comprised of vegetable shortening, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil and flavoring. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from the bait.

It is anticipated 628,400 baits will be distributed over participating counties as indicated in the New York State Wildlife Rabies Vaccination Program, Wildlife Rabies Vaccination Zone 2020 Map. If one finds ORV baits, leave them alone, unless they are found where children or pets play. Follow ORV recommendations (below).

“Terrestrial rabies cases have persisted in WNY counties since the early 1990s. Rabies continues to be a serious public health concern, and fatal in unvaccinated animals,” Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said. “Immunization of wildlife will help to reduce the number of rabies cases and prevent the continued spread of this fatal virus. Members of the community can help by monitoring their children and pets, and by keeping pets up to date with rabies vaccinations.”

If residents have additional questions related to the ORV ONRAB field trial, they can contact the Environmental Health Division at 716-439-7444. Information may also be found by visiting https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies/wildlife.htm.

ORV Recommendations

√ Wash your hands immediately if you come into direct contact with the vaccine or bait, then call 1-888-574-6656.

√ Supervise children’s outdoor activities during bait distribution and for one week afterward.

√ Confine dogs and cats indoors and observe leash laws during the bait distribution interval, and for one week afterward. This will increase the probability of raccoon vaccination and will decrease the chance of pets finding the baits.

√ The baits and vaccines are not harmful to domestic animals; however, an animal may vomit if it consumes several baits. Do not risk being bitten while trying to remove a bait from your pet’s mouth.

√ Call 1-888-574-6656 if you see your pet with bait in its mouth and cannot read the label.

√ If baits are observed in the environment, leave them alone. Labels identify the bait: “Rabies Vaccine DO NOT EAT, Live adenovirus vector. MNR 1-888-574-6656.”

√ If a bait is intact and out in the open where pets or children may find it, toss the bait under trees or bushes. Wear gloves or use a plastic bag to pick up the bait

√ If a bait is broken and the liquid vaccine is visible, wear gloves, and cover the bait and affected area with a 1:10 solution of bleach and water, place the bait in a plastic bag, and dispose of the bag in the household trash.

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